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5 Key Elements of Social Presence

5 Key Elements of Social Presence:  Part 5 Instructor Involvement

This blog is the fifth and final of a five part series on the 5 key elements of social presence.  It is based on an article from the September/October edition of Learning & Leading with Technology magazine.  The article, written by Amy Garrett Dikkers, Aimee Whiteside, and Somer Lewis, is titled Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online.

Social Presence Model


A monther helping a daughter with schoolwork

Instructor Involvement

It is especially important in online classes that the instructor be an active participant in the community.  This is natural to many of us in a traditional, brick and mortar classroom.

However, in virtual programs, it is far too easy to fall into the trap of becoming nothing more than a “glorified grader.”

Students desperately want to feel connected to their instructors.  They should feel like you are working just as hard as they are (and sometimes harder for some of our students) toward their success.

For this reason, online teachers need to be intentional in becoming involved in all aspects of a student’s learning throughout the semester.



  • Make direct comments about students’ work and posts.  I mentioned before about the importance of individualized feedback.  Be specific when you leave feedback.  Let students know that you are actually looking at their work.


  • Respond in discussions.  Take an active role in discussion boards.  Just like you would mediate a discussion in your traditional classroom, do the same thing in your virtual classroom.  Let students know that you are there.


  • Avoid automated emails.  I know they are very convenient, but they are about as impersonal as communication can get.  Plus, our students know right away that it is automated and not personal.  Your students will start deleting your emails without looking at them if they are simply expecting an automated email.  You can send a quick email that is personalized without wasting a lot of time.

phone call

  • Make frequent phone calls.  This aspect is important.  Emails are convenient, but phone calls are very personal.  They show students that you care enough about their education to take time out of your day to call.  These phone calls should be happening at least once every other week.  Try setting up a schedule where you call 2-3 students a day during your prep or after school.  If you’d rather do this every other day and call a larger group of students, this may work better for you.  Either way, make it a habit to call your students frequently.





Use the comments below to share what strategies work well for you.  What ideas do you have to make this easier or efficient for all virtual teachers?

Again, I encourage you to visit the article where the idea and much of the content for this blog series originated.  It is a great resource for virtual school teachers.


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